Plastic bags are great – don’t ban them
It’s generally a good rule of thumb to oppose anything that’s favoured by the Daily Mail, assuming you have the slightest interest in economics or liberty, even if it doesn’t obviously sound like a bad idea. Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy would’ve done well to follow the rule:
In one stroke the Daily Mail has put [banning plastic supermarket bags] back on the political agenda and for that it must be applauded. The question is, will politicians heed?
Why is Sunny wrong? Well, plastic supermarket bags, while they make for oh-so-sad photostories of suffering seagulls, cause next to no net environmental damage. The government-funded Waste Resources Action Programme has said that because they are generally re-used as rubbish/storage bags, and because they are less environmentally costly to make than paper bags, they are the greenest current alternative.
It gets worse. Plastic bags are of the most use to people who’re shopping on foot or by public transport; if you’re going by car you can keep your shopping in boxes, or keep a selection of Bags For Life in your boot.
But if your shopping is done as part of a public transport commute [work -> shop -> home], which is the least environmentally damaging way to do it, then you’ve got a problem if plastic bags are banned: paper bags aren’t much use for holding things for more than the distance from checkout to car, which is why they’re popular in America, and carrying a Bag For Life wherever you go on the off-chance you might want to do some shopping at some point is hardly practical.
If you want to impose a tax on shopping that helps the environment, then tax supermarkets £5 for every car that parks in their car parks – giving them the choice of whether or not to pass it on to the consumer, of course. If you want to drive people off public transport and into their cars, while also increasing emissions associated with bag production (but saving a couple of cute animals – so that makes it all worthwhile), then support the plastic bag tax…